PARIS – Investment banker-turned-jeweler Olivier Reza is adding a new line to his resumé: chief executive officer of Eleven James, a site that allows consumers to rent luxury watches in the same way that Rent the Runway gives them access to designer clothes.
An early investor in the platform, Reza said he has been running the company since April, overseeing the relaunch of its web site as the company expands its consignment offer.
“We believe that there are just so many beautiful watches out there in people’s hands that are not utilized,” he told WWD of the site, which was launched in 2014 by Randy Brandoff, the former chief marketing officer of private jet fractional ownership program NetJets.
“The goal of this company is to serve customers who want to enjoy beautiful things without having to own. But we also want to serve collectors who bought beautiful things and deserve to find a way to monetize them or have them shared with others, and to put the two together,” Reza added.
As part of the new web site, to be unveiled on Monday, Eleven James has created curated collections offering subscriptions at $150, $300 or $500 per month.
The entry-price offer of the Studio collection, for instance, provides access to a vintage Rolex Datejust or an IWC Portofino chronograph. Its bespoke section includes rare and upscale watches, such as a rose gold Audemars Piguet Royal Oak chronograph that will set you back $1,200 a month to rent.
Reza wants to expand the reach of the service, which was previously targeted at watch connoisseurs.
“We’ve worked really hard in creating a user experience that allowed customers that didn’t know much about watches, or knew but needed guidance, to have a much better and seamless experience,” he said, adding that customers will earn back 10 cents on every dollar they spend in rewards.
Users of the service get to keep watches for three months, although Reza plans to introduce shorter durations in future.
Watch owners are guaranteed annual rental fees equivalent to 10 percent of the value of the timepiece. Reza has put up several of his own watches, including a Patek Philippe Nautilus chronograph and a Rolex Sea-Dweller. Consigners also have the option to sell their watches if customers choose to keep them.
Watches on consignment until now accounted for just 5 percent of the offer on the site, with Eleven James owning “thousands” of other timepieces, he said.
“It will be a game of balancing the demand with the supply, obviously, and we will also always own a significant percent of all watches, just because there’s watches you need to own because you cannot find them on consignment – they are extremely popular, they are rare,” he noted.
This is only the first step for Eleven James, which plans to expand into jewelry and art as Millennials increasingly shift toward a sharing economy.
“We all love luxury, but what we love is really the experiment and the discovery of new things. And yes, there’s some pieces or luxury items that we care about more than others and we tend to hold onto. But, for the most part, the fun is to constantly discover and change and experiment,” said Reza.
“There’s too much frustration in not being able to experiment more and what this business is about is to eliminate some of that frustration and allow consumers who are interested in learning more and discovering more to just have access to it without the constraint that existed until today, which is the capital commitment,” he added.
Reza is the company’s largest shareholder and also sits on the board of directors at Sotheby’s. His new job marks a significant change from his work at Alexandre Reza, the jewelry brand founded by his father which he took over in 2008.
“One is about being extremely patient designing pieces, taking years to design them, waiting for months or even years for them to be made until they discover their perfect match,” he said. “And the other one is the complete opposite, making beautiful things accessible to people at the click of a button.”
The New York-based company has been working to improve its processes and infrastructure to prepare it for expansion.
“It’s a very complicated company to operate for everything to work perfectly and the customer to be satisfied, so what was important for us was to build a company that we can scale and make sure that if the customer comes, he gets the best possible service,” Reza said.
“It was very important to present Eleven James as a lifestyle company, a brand that is elastic and that can grow into other categories and become ultimately the destination for consumers to discover, experience, consign and buy beautiful things.”